“I just need something fresh. There are no vegetables anywhere in this town.”
Many New Orleanians who have entertained out-of-town visitors have heard this complaint before, though as residents and diners, locals know it’s not true. Restaurants throughout the area are showing off local produce and fresh ingredients in innovative ways every day. But every time someone complains about a lack of greenery on local plates, I get defensive (we all remember #kalegate).
But instead of letting frustration get the better of me, I prove them wrong at places like Saint-Germain with its crudites, Marjie’s Grill and its piles of fresh herbs and spring parties at Paradigm Gardens, where chefs work with the urban garden’s bounty of produce.
The latest spot on my “I’ll show you vegetables” tour is the Elysian Bar, which opened late last year inside the stunning new Hotel Peter and Paul, named for the former church in Faubourg Marigny.
The restaurant’s unique dining space fills the first floor of the church’s rectory, which nor has a parlorlike sitting room in front, a petite dining room with windows looking over the courtyard and a barroom with pillars that look like upside-down cypress tree stumps.
Here chefs Alex Harrell and Martha Wiggins serve preserved mushrooms with a dollop of fresh ricotta and micro greens, pickled shallots and dill. Buttery florets of crispy cauliflower steal the show, paired with creamy olivade and sheep’s milk cheese. And a dish simply called “lettuces” has a light shallot vinaigrette on a mix of leafy greens and arugula, edible marigold flower buds, sunflower seeds and fried shallots.
Even in the dishes built around meat, bright and lively vegetable sides vie for the spotlight. Hanger steak is served with carrot-pecan romesco and salsa verde, and a confit chicken leg quarter arrives with wedges of escarole and tart roasted apples.
The menu seems designed for sharing small plates, though some of the larger dishes serve as modestly sized entrees.
Southern-style smoked Gulf fish often is served in rillette or dip form, but at Elysian Bar, silky hunks of fish are piled high on crusty bread with avocado and confit leeks with tiny pearls of pickled mustard seed and sprigs of dill perched delicately on top.
Fans of fried Brussels sprouts will like the version here, with bronzed leaves, smoked almonds, pucker and sweetness from pickled raisins and tang from a sheen of vinegar.
Much of the menu has remained the same since the restaurant opened, and while the quality of the dishes has been consistent, the small menu could use some variety or variation.
The phrase “vegetable-forward” has become more common, and it’s accurate for the pleasing menu at The Elysian Bar.
The Elysian Bar
Hotel Peter and Paul, 2317 Burgundy St., (504) 356-6769; www.theelysianbar.com
breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
whipped ricotta with preserved mushrooms, smoked Gulf fish
menu is static
lively vegetable dishes steal the spotlight at Marigny hotel restaurant